News: Quick Takes

Court bars funeral director licensed in Vermont from working in N.C.

A Vermont man’s attempts to work as a funeral director in North Carolina were thwarted when the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld a decision rejecting his request for a reciprocal license.

Craig Franklin Smith is licensed as a funeral director in Vermont, but the N.C. Board of Funeral Service decided this wasn’t enough to grant him a license to work in the Tar Heel State. The board has rejected Smith’s application for a reciprocal license multiple times. Smith petitioned the court to overturn the board’s ruling on technical grounds, but ultimately the court sided with the NCBFS.

The board’s main reasoning follows statute, which requires the licensing requirements of another state to be “substantially similar” to North Carolina’s to be considered reciprocal. NCBFS ruled that Vermont’s licensing requirements didn’t meet this standard. Smith also didn’t submit proof that he passed two examinations required for a non-reciprocal license.

Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, said North Carolina’s occupational licensing model is needlessly restrictive and worth reconsidering.

“Any time North Carolina makes it harder for someone to enter a profession here than in another state, I think it ought to trigger a rethink of our requirements,” Sanders said. “Is Vermont a ‘Wild West’ of funeral directors?”

North Carolina requires graduation from a funeral director program at an approved mortuary science college, 12 months of resident training as a funeral director, passing exams covering such subject matters as psychology or funeral management, and an exam covering laws and regulations of the state. Renewing a funeral director license requires the licensee to complete at least five hours of continuing education of a board-approved course.

Vermont requires graduating from a school of funeral service and completing a written examination for the board. Like North Carolina, Vermont requires an applicant to complete 12 months of resident training under direct supervision of a licensed funeral director. Upon renewal, Vermont also requires a licensed funeral director to earn credits from board approved continuing education programs.

Sanders said the state should consider following the lead of other states like Nebraska in reforming occupational licensing.

A law passed earlier this year requires Cornhusker State legislators to review all occupational licensing laws and relax or eliminate those which don’t protect public health and safety.

“We urge policymakers to consider less restrictive policy options first before going to licensing, have periodic review of licensing requirements, and use the least burdensome requirements for what licenses are deemed necessary,” Sanders said.

The NCBFS didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.